The idea that weight is harmful has been "exaggerated" and fat people may actually live longer, suggests a new study by US scientists.
The University of California study, based on analysis of 350,000 people in the US, suggests that the obese put their health in greater danger when they obsessively try to slim down.
The researchers claim that society`s obsession with dieting is "ineffective" and often leads to people becoming fatter as they crave food and go on a binge.
It recommends people should eat a varied and balanced diet, and take "enjoyable" amounts of exercise, even if they still end up carrying a few extra pounds, the Daily Mail reported, citing the Nutrition Journal.
Researcher Linda Bacon said that although health professionals mean well when they suggest people lose weight, "our analysis indicates that researchers have long interpreted research data through a biased lens".
The study claims there is evidence to show that overweight people live longer than normal. Those who are obese in old age also tend to live longer than elderly people who are thin.
They are also more likely to survive certain health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.
Although it is well-known that obesity puts people at higher risk of heart disease and other illnesses, the researchers say that "being fat" is not the cause.
Instead, they blame poor diet and lack of exercise - which almost always come with obesity.